Hiding eggs is a good rainy-day option for red-eared sliders

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Kansas City
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Kansas City, Mo. – Rain is just another form of wet for red-eared slider turtles, who spend their time in and out of water in ponds, sloughs, and rivers. One advantage though is that rain softens the ground for digging a hole to bury eggs in. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) notes the turtles are a popular photo subject for wildlife watchers, but it’s an unusual treat if you spy them laying eggs.

A female slider at the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center in Kansas City made a short, mid-day, egg-laying trek from the pond to some nearby shrubs on June 25.

The turtles use their strong back legs with webbed feet and claws to dig a hole. Females lower their backsides over the hole, squeeze out the egg from an ovipositor, and then immediately use their hind legs to bury the egg. Then they repeat the process with the next egg. In late summer or early autumn, the hatched turtles will emerge and begin exploring.

In Missouri, large females can lay up to 30 eggs, said Jeff Briggler, MDC scientist and herpetologist. They may lay the largest and most developed eggs in the clutch first. Then a week or two later they may lay and bury the remaining eggs in the clutch. Many hatched turtles won’t survive. But the red-eared slider is abundant because they can live and survive in many types of habitats, including human dominated places.

Visitors to the Discovery Center’s outdoor garden trails often snap photos of them sunbathing on logs or rock. But not often are eggs spotted. An hour after the Discovery Center turtle laid her eggs, the spot was completely level and covered with mulch. There were few visible  signs that she had dug in that spot.

For more information on red-slider turtles in Missouri, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/ZV4.